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Mes jours de déplacement plus de


I have to say it, sad as it may seem,
To readers of this importune poem.
But my travelling days are over!
(Mes jours de déplacement plus de)

No more cheap wonky hotel rooms,
And luggage dragging, taxi honking,
Places that smell of something
Like I have never smelt before and never want to again.

Once I went through Sarawak,
Malaysian Borneo, down long grinding roads
Where monkeys danced attendance in the lay-by’s
And petrol stations were as rare as an extinct species.

Waiting at ferries for a slow crossing
Over some endless river, where logs and decomposing bodies
Were swept towards the South China Sea,
Nobody really giving a ‘hoot’ who died.

Life is so very cheap in these places,
But maybe I am old and tired
And too impatient to bear the foreign tongues
Which wag instructions to the weary traveller.

I wonder why the world don’t speak a common language –
Preferably English of course.
Forgive my French or Tagalog or Japanese!
But “nil comprehende” if you please!

Robert Barry

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My Dad Came Home from Flanders

My father fought at Ypres;
They called it the Ypres salient,
Where German lines bulged,
Into our own dear English soil.

In the middle was Hill 62,
Such a prize that twenty thousand dead
Witness to its capture and re-capture
And capture and re-capture.

My Dad’s rifle served him well at Ypres.
Leaning over the trench he sniped
At will at foolish Germans
Who raised their heads too high.

My Dad got a medal at Ypres,
For bravery in the face of the enemy.
Who was this enemy?
Men like him who left house and hearth to fight?

These Germans with their pointed heads,
They called them oppressors of the poor.
Demons from hell, whose one sole aim
Was to destroy our English freedom.

But their wives and children waited
In vain for the moment of victory
That never came, only starvation
And that terrible feeling of loss.

Talking about loss, my Father
Left his left leg at Ypres,
Somewhere in the sucking mud.
But they never found his lost leg.

Yet as a child I remember well
His footfall coming home;
Dot one – carry one, the sound
That always announced his arrival.

My Dad hardly ever spoke of Ypres,
Except that once he said,
The shell that did for his leg
Also did for his mates.

So my Dad came home
But his mates didn’t;
That’s why I am here
Writing this poem in case I forget.

Robert Barry

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Hark! The merry checkouts ring!

Hark! The merry checkouts ring,
Credit cards for everything!
Space war toys with flashing sparks,
Purewool skirt we bought at Mark’s.
Glacéfruit in crystal jars,
Laptops, gin and Dutch cigars.
We’re the victims of hardsell,
Christmas shopping is pure hell.
Hark! the merry checkouts ring,
Credit cards for everything.

Disregard the checkouts ring,
Try to hear the angels sing,
Bringing good news to the earth,
Gospel of a Saviour’s birth.
“Peace on earth” their message still,
“Peace to all those of good will.
Christ is born!” the angels cry,
“Glory be to God on high!”
Let the checkouts have their ring,
We will hear the angels sing.

John Bowers

from: http://www.mpldigital.com/crosslincs/newspaper
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The Rolling English Road

The Rolling English Road



Before the Roman came to Rye or out to Severn strode, 
The rolling English drunkard made the rolling English road. 
A reeling road, a rolling road, that rambles round the shire, 
And after him the parson ran, the sexton and the squire; 
A merry road, a mazy road, and such as we did tread 
The night we went to Birmingham by way of Beachy Head. 


I knew no harm of Bonaparte and plenty of the Squire, 
And for to fight the Frenchman I did not much desire; 
But I did bash their baggonets because they came arrayed 
To straighten out the crooked road an English drunkard made, 
Where you and I went down the lane with ale-mugs in our hands, 
The night we went to Glastonbury by way of Goodwin Sands. 


His sins they were forgiven him; or why do flowers run 
Behind him; and the hedges all strengthening in the sun? 
The wild thing went from left to right and knew not which was which, 
But the wild rose was above him when they found him in the ditch. 
God pardon us, nor harden us; we did not see so clear 
The night we went to Bannockburn by way of Brighton Pier. 


My friends, we will not go again or ape an ancient rage, 
Or stretch the folly of our youth to be the shame of age, 
But walk with clearer eyes and ears this path that wandereth, 
And see undrugged in evening light the decent inn of death; 
For there is good news yet to hear and fine things to be seen, 
Before we go to Paradise by way of Kensal Green.

by G. K. Chesterton. 

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Toxic shame: Thousands injured in African city

Synopsis of an Article removed from Independent Newspaper website after injunction by British oil trading giant, Trafigura.

A British oil trading giant has agreed to a multimillion-pound payout to settle a huge damages claim from thousands of Ivory Coast citizens who fell ill from tonnes of toxic waste dumped illegally around the principal city of Abidjan in one of the worst pollution incidents in decades.

Under the deal, thousands of Ivorians who suffered short-term illnesses, including vomiting, diarrhoea and breathing difficulties, receive a payout understood to be set at several hundred pounds. But the settlement, which is likely to be confirmed by the end of this month, will mean that claims of more serious injuries caused by the waste – including miscarriages, still births and birth defects – will now not be tested in the £100m court claim, which had been scheduled to start in London’s High Court next month.  Trafigura is a privately-owned multinational which has 1,900 staff working in 42 offices around the world, last year claimed a turnover of $73bn (£44bn). The figure is double the entire GDP of Ivory Coast, where half the population of 21 million live on less than a dollar a day.

Trafigura, a London-based company which bills itself as one of the world’s largest oil traders, said it was in talks to reach a "global settlement" to the claim by 30,000 people from Ivory Coast, who brought Britain’s largest-ever lawsuit after contaminated sludge from a tanker ship was fly-tipped under cover of darkness in August 2006. The incident caused at least 100,000 residents from the west African country’s most populous city, Abidjan, to flood into hospitals and clinics complaining of breathing difficulties and sickness. Investigations by the Ivorian authorities suggestedthat the deaths of at least 10 people were linked to the waste. Trafigura has always insisted the foul-smelling slurry, dumped without its knowledge by a sub-contractor, could not have caused serious injury or illness. At the heart of the dumping incident, which at times seemed to owe more to the novels of John Grisham than 21st-century commerce, lies an oil deal spanning three continents.

Internal Trafigura emails, obtained by Greenpeace, show that Trafigura struck a series of bargains on the international markets in 2005 and early 2006 to buy cheap and dirty petroleum, called coker gasoline, which the company believed could then be cleaned up at profit of £4m per cargo.  Rather than send the oil to a refinery, Trafigura used the Probo Koala, a Panamanian tanker chartered by the company since 2004, as a floating processing plant while it was anchored off Gibraltar. Using an ad hoc process of adding caustic soda and a catalyst to the coker gasoline, the oil was "cleaned" to produce a sellable fuel and a toxic sludge which sank to the bottom of the ship’s tanks. The precise composition of the waste is strongly disputed, with Trafigura vigorously denying it contained high concentrations of hydrogen sulphide, a potentially lethal poisonous gas. The presence of mercaptan, a sulphurous chemical that is widely recognised as the most foul-smelling substance known to man, was confirmed. Problems began for Trafigura when it needed to dispose of the slurry.

When the Probo Koala arrived in Amsterdam in July 2006 and tried to unload the contaminated slops, allegedly described as "watery cleaning liquids", the process caused a health alert and Trafigura was informed the cost of dealing with its by-product would rise from £17 per cubic metre to £800. Rather than pay the estimated bill of £500,000, Trafigura ordered the waste to be pumped back on to the Probo Koala and the vessel travelled to west Africa. The first the four million inhabitants of Abidjan knew of their role in Trafigura’s project was after darkness on 19 August 2006. A fleet of 12 trucks hired by a local waste contractor, Compagnie Tommy, which had only received its operating licence weeks earlier, offloaded the sulphurous sludge from the cargo vessel and deposited the waste at 18 locations around the sprawling, over-crowded city. Hospital records showed that within hours thousands of patients were treated for complaints including nausea, breathlessness, headaches, skin reactions and a range of ear, nose, throat and pulmonary problems.

The bitterly contested legal action has seen Trafigura repeatedly deploy one of Britain’s most aggressive firms of lawyers, Carter Ruck, to prevent reporting on the case by media outlets including the BBC. The firm also obtained  a court super-injunction preventing reporting of a question asked in Parliament, as well as preventing reporting of the existence of the injunction itself. More recently Carter-Ruck, Trafigura’s lawyers, have tried to prevent a parliamentary debate, on the incident referred to in the injunction, from taking place. 

Their intention was to prevent any mention or publication of the Minton Report, which examines the nature and hazards posed by the toxic waste. This damning report has since appeared on a number of web sites, including Wikileaks . Readers can help the victims and the press undermine this unconscionable gag order, by spreading the URL which Wikileaks have made available as a downloadable PDF file fromé2009.pdf

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The “I” and the Me”


A personal recollection of an out-of-body experience. This a re-working of a previous prose piece which I have now removed from an earlier blog in case it looks familiar which is unlikely since I doubt anybody read it previously if you get my drift. The painting is called "Salvia".

Who is the ‘I’ that stands outside me looking in,

is it eponymous fate or is it some divine creature,

hidden for ages in the “I” of God

before it was released upon this unpitying morning,

delivering its inert messages.


Did the Prophets have these moments,

looking for recalcitrant words,

hesitating  to define the ‘I’ and the ‘me’,

that coupled pair who never really sang in harmony

when time first set us in spinning motion like twin suns forever circling.


For the ‘me’ of old was forged from my parent’s crooked clay,

subject like them to time and degradation.

It was parental ignorance that turned me

on the twisted wheel of fate into the deform that you now behold,

the creature of rutted habit doomed forever

to follow the same useless path.


The Potter’s wheel is so deformed,

it cannot shape the growing child

to suit the ‘I’ who was presented with this wreckage,

to make the best or worst of it,

depending on what fate brought forth.

Eons will  pass before ‘I’ am set free,

returned to the maker pure and unmarked by the body’s boundaries;

This is the origin of angels.


Now, as I grow old and time runs fast,

these boundaries are stretched almost to infinity,

blurred yet encompassing both the real and the imaginary world.

This is the true search for knowing,

stepping outside myself, hands dangling free,

unshapely, yet in craving pose,

waiting to grasp whatever reality might come my way.


I see others, also searching,

but mostly unknowingly, unwittingly

and restlessly seeking something real, tangible or unobtainably true.

The outer being only sees the somnambulant robot,

the ambivalent bloated hands clumsily reaching out,

then resting before moving on.


Yet ‘I’ am still the controller of my destiny,

driving the robot ‘me’, forever forward to new expectations.

The puttied hands swell until the centre of soul takes its rightful place

at that single point that is the beginning of everything.


‘I’ have no loss of reality here.

It is only the illusion of ‘me’.

‘I’ see clearly while the ‘me’ stumbles in dark places.

Robert Barry

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